Monday, May 9, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM series

***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***

A Genre By Any Other Name

By Lori Crusin Degman

In doing research for this post, I discovered the categories I had always thought of as “Genres”, were really “Formats”.  I figured, there must be a lot of other writers who thought the same thing.  So, I would like to share with you the different formats and genres and help you determine which are best suited for your style of writing.  

First, you need to determine in which format you prefer to write and then, within that format, which genre appeals to you (many genres cross formats).  Here is a list of the different formats in children’s literature:

Typical Length
Age Range
Picture Book
32 pages;
less than 700 words
4 - 8
Text and illustrations used equally; main character is a child who solves his/her own problem; concepts or events common to children
Early Reader
48 - 64 pages;
2 - 3 page chapters;
up to 1,500 words
6 - 9
Illustrations on every page but more “grownup” looking; events to which children can relate
Chapter Book
2 - 4 sentence paragraphs;
3 - 4 page chapters; 
up to 10,000 words
7 - 10
lots of action and humor; events to which children can relate
Middle Grade
80 - 190 pages;
longer chapters;
20,000 - 40,000 words
9 - 12
conflict driven;  main character pursues goals and faces obstacles
Young Adult
40,000 - 60,000 words
12 +
teenaged main characters; coming of age; multi-themed; authentic voice
Graphic Novel
48 - 64 pages
all ages
comic book format with more pictures than words
Novel in Verse
10,000 - 20,000 words
similar to young adult novels but written in free-style verse; each poem should stand alone and capture a moment or scene

Once you’ve decided which format you prefer, you need to determine which genre in children’s literature best fits what you enjoy writing.  To help you do that, I’ve developed this short test.  

Which phrase would you most likely choose to complete this sentence:  

Yesterday, my friend and I . . .

A.    climbed on our zongos and rode to the edge of floxium.
B.    ate a steak and kidney pie.
C.    helped Paul Bunyon find his ox.
D.    spoke on the telephone for the first time,” Thomas Edison announced.
E.    landed on the planet Neptune.
F.    began this personal journal.
G.    signed up to fight against the Yankees.
H.    pulled out our iphones to take pics of the cutest boy in school.
I.     looked for clues at the murder scene.
J.    climbed off our horses and mosied over to the saloon.
K.   realized we have been madly in love for years!

Match your choice above to the genres below:

A.    Fantasy
B.    Poetry
C.    Folklore
D.    Nonfiction
E.    Science Fiction
F.    Biography
G.    Historical Fiction
H.    Contemporary Fiction
I.     Mystery
J.    Western
K.    Romance

No matter in which format or genre you write, there are basic rules that apply to writing for children - though rules are made to be broken so don’t feel compelled to follow them to the letter:

  • Your story needs an arc - a clear beginning that sets up a problem for the main character, a middle in which the main character makes attempts to solve the problem (usually three attempts), and a satisfying ending in which the main character finally solves the problem.

  • Create genuine characters to whom your readers can relate and feel some kind of emotional connection - love, hate, fear, admiration . . .

  • Read as many books as you can in your genre - not to imitate, but to learn what types of things work well and what things you should avoid doing - based on your reactions to the books you’ve read.

  • Be ready to rewrite, reword, revise!

Lori Degman is a teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing students by day and a writer of picture books by night, weekend and school holidays.  She lives in a northern suburb of Chicago with her husband and two dogs.  Her picture book, 1 Zany Zoo was the winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest and a mini version was distributed inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios.  The hardcover was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. 1 Zany Zoo won the Mother's Choice Award - Gold Level for Picture Book Humor in 2012 and has been nominated for the 2012-2013 South Carolina Picture Book Award.



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Carrie! I'm sure Lori appreciates your helping get the word out...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

    2. Thanks for reposting this, Donna!

  2. Great advice! Passing it along...